Monday, October 1st, 2007

Anna Hostvedt: Recent Paintings

Tibor de Nagy Gallery
724 Fifth Avenue
New York City
212 262 5050

October 4- November 10, 2007

Anna Hostvedt Surge 2007 oil on museum board, 8 x 10 inches Courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery
Anna Hostvedt, Surge 2007 oil on museum board, 8 x 10 inches Courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery

Anna Hostvedt’s small, intricate paintings offer a personal vision of the mundane. One could say she is painting what Georgio Morandi would have painted had his window faced a non-descript American parking lot instead of an Italian courtyard. A delicate sense of touch and subtle shifts of temperature within a monochrome palette characterize her landscapes of parking lots, overpasses and surrounding fields, filling the smaller gallery at Tibor de Nagy with paintings of an overall murky atmosphere and melancholic tone.

Hostvedt works on site at a commuter train station parking lot in Long Island, although nothing in the paintings distinctively identifies this locale. The painting’s titles, additionally, reveal little about a specific location, rather signalling directional cues such as West North West (all 2007) or Banks at 320 Degrees.These titles suggest a cartographic or scientific aspect to the work, as if these paintings service some kind of government surveying project.

However, the way they are painted has less to do with a reporting of empirical observation than with a transformation of color and mood. From a distance these scenes seem anonymous, such as in Banks at 320 Degrees and From Northeast by East.

Automobiles – emerging from behind fences and lines of trees – are a surrogate for human presence in Hostvedt’s work. Anthropomorphized vehicles, when evenly ordered, appear as throngs of people, seemingly suspended above asphalt. In the painting Surge, car roofs appear like overlapping architecture, forming a skyline of automobiles from Hostvedt’s plein air easel.

The most interesting moments are when one loses recognition of automobiles as such and becomes immersed in Hostvedt’s individual brand of shapes. These shapes waver undecidedly between description and abstraction. Such moments are most satisfying in a painting like Inflow, where the cropping depicts automobiles from the windows up, creating a canopy of roofs, through which a tree sprouts. If one focuses on the tree, then the faint, monochrome automobile roofs almost disappear—forcing one to divine exactly what is being viewed.

What do these doleful, somber mood paintings say about the American landscape? That the experience of commuting is one of disconnection and loneliness is too simple an answer. As her titles suggest a clinical detachment from subject matter, her pictures point to a transformative and poetic engagement. Hostvedt lingers in interstitial sites as few other people do.  In order to fully experience her paintings, one must give them that same attention.